Marriage, Hawaiian Style



 “We really need to change public perception here,” says Ramsey. “And Hawaii is the perfect place for this; it’s an isolated media market. It’s a great place to learn how to change opinions about gay and lesbian people. By mainland standards it’s cheap.” Ramsey estimates that a $250,000 media campaign would turn public opinion around and save gay marriage from being just a passing phenomenon.

“My sense is that it should be a high priority for mainland organizations,” says Ramsey. “It would carry from one state to another. To us, it’s been frustrating not to somehow get the message over.”

Ramsey, Foley, and others criticize national gay groups, particularly the Human Rights Campaign—whose executive director, Elizabeth Birch, once lived in Hawaii—for using the marriage issue to raise money for themselves without passing any along to HERMP. But Kim Mills, a spokeswoman for the HRC, says that such criticism is misplaced. “The fact is that we are primarily a federal lobby,” she says. “We have provided information and assistance to people in Hawaii. We have spent money on this issue.”

When—not if, as Foley insists—same-sex marriage becomes the law in Hawaii, people are bracing for an influx of gay and lesbian couples looking to get hitched. But unlike their Hawaiian peers, who have had years to consider the issue, many mainland gays and lesbians may not understand exactly what marriage would entail.

“When I talk to the well-to-do Hollywood types, they don’t think they need it,” Foley marvels. “They think they have all the legal arrangements they need. They don’t understand that if the breadwinner is hit by a truck, you can’t sue.”

Many gay men and lesbians also have not considered that marriage is the ultimate coming-out statement. “The first thing you have to do before even thinking about getting married is come out,” says Rodrigues.

Because the idea of same-sex marriage is still so new for many mainland gay and lesbian couples, it is impossible to predict how they will avail themselves of the opportunity once they have it. Foley, for one, believes that some couples will choose romance over activism, privately getting married in the islands and then not making much of their union publicly once they return to the mainland. (No one in Hawaii believes that same-sex marriage will lead to the permanent relocation of a large number of gays from the mainland.)